Web-courses for EU Marie Curie International Training Networks

Three successive educational modules related to Business & Entrepreneurship, Diagnostic Commercialization and Pharmaceutical Commercialization, were held in the form of virtual lectures during the autumn of 2020.

Webbkurser för EU Marie Curie International Training Networks.

The program was developed in collaboration among the Vascular Surgery group and doctoral programs for Development and Regeneration and Cardiovascular Research at Karolinska Institute (KI). The activities were envisioned to strengthen the transferable skill portfolio and targeted primarily to PhD students belonging to the EU Marie Curie ITN networks INTRICARE and CaReSyAn. However, these advanced seminars covering hot topics related to collaborations between academia and industry, attracted broader audience with mixed backgrounds (clinical, basic researchers, PhD students, postdocs, PIs, etc.), in addition to international PhD students from several large European centers (i.e. Maastricht University, Karolinska Institutet, RWTH Aachen, Gent University, Utrecht University, Leuven, INSERM, etc.). Assist Prof Ljubica Matic, Assoc Prof Karolina Kublickiene and Prof Ulf Hedin acted as Organisers and Hosts for the three seminars, that were composed of virtual lectures by high-level representatives from the Big Pharma Industry and Academia, talking about aspects related to academia-industry partnering strategies, IP issues and patenting, diagnostic or therapeutic target developments from bench to bedside, etc. The webinars also encompassed motivational lectures with practical examples of research projects that have led to clinical developments. Each speaker acted also as a motivational leader by presenting their career pathways in addition to challenges in front for the execution of their selected professional choices.

Business & Entrepreneurship

The first session addressed the various models for “Business & Entrepreneurship” between Academia and Industry through lectures by Richard Cowburn, Responsible Corporate Partnering at KI and Stina Salomonsson, Executive Director Outcomes Research, MSD. Richard presented his extensive practical experience from setting up collaborations with Big Pharma and highlighted not only the exciting possibilities of these collaborations, but also the hidden hurdles. Stina gave a fascinating lecture about an ongoing collaboration where MSD in collaboration with researchers from KI, is generating new knowledge using epidemiological and register data in the field of vaccination, cardiovascular, diabetes, Alzheimer disease. Patrik Blomquist, Innovation Manager, KI Innovations AB, explained the basic concepts of intellectual property, ‘the teachers privilege’ in the Swedish law and the road to patenting ideas. The session ended with a motivational lecture by TEDx speaker coach and writer Andrew Hennigan, who entertained the audience with creative ways to generate revenue in his lecture entitled: “Monetizing the Elephant”. 

Diagnostic Commercialization

In the second session focused on ”Diagnostic Commercialization”, three invited speakers discussed their experiences in transforming ideas and discoveries for commercial use. Andrew Buckler, Elucid, Boston, USA presented his journey in the development and commercialization of a software that can be applied to image analysis of conventional computer tomography angiographies to resolve atherosclerotic plaque morphology. Andrew, who has an engineering background, discussed necessary steps to be taken and useful advice, in order to build an environment that may successfully enter into a competitive market. In the second talk, Anders Mälarstig from Pfizer but also co-affiliated as a researcher at KI, presented examples from Big Pharma on commercial and scientific strategies in  drug development, with a focus on genetics and computational biomedicine. Therafter, Prof Staffan Holmin, neurointerventionist at Karolinska University Hospital, addressed his experience in taking an endovascular invention intended for use in cell transplantation and micro-biopsies of organs to the market, going through the hurdles of patenting, financing and balancing the scientific aspects of the discovery to protection of intellectual property. A truly fascinating and inspiring lecture. The session was closed with yet another entertaining lecture by Andrew Hennigan, this time with a focus on how to find a useful and effective way to nurture your ideas. Indeed worth remembering to always write them down and store them for future use. 

Pharmaceutical Commercialization

The third session culminated around “Pharmaceutical Commercialization”, where Hovsep Mahdessian, Scientific Expert and Access Lead Bayer Pharmaceuticals (and KI alumni), presented how new molecular targets are tested as new drugs and introduced on the market. He also addressed some concepts related to the responsibilities of Pharma companies, prioritization of diseases for R&D and partnering not only with Academia, but also with Patient associations, to improve health in the society. Jan Fleckner, Biomarker Expert and Director from Novo Nordisk, told us about a case story where a candidate drug for NASH was not enough to make impact to patients, advising that proper clinical developments require multiple expertise and early start of activities often at very high-risk, which only Big Pharma can sustain. Eva Hurt-Camejo, Science Lead and Director Strategy & Externalisation Astra Zeneca, also affiliated to KI as Adj Prof in the Vascular Surgery group, focused her lecture around human target validation learning from the 5R framework which Astra Zeneca has published in recent years. The 5R encompasses: the right target, the right tissue, the right safety, the right patient and the right commercial potential, these being the cornerstones that drive success in target validation for biomarker and drug purposes. The seminar was finished with an inspirational lecture by Vladana Vukojevic, Assoc Prof and Group Leader from KI, who presented for the audience her career track in translational science starting from physical chemistry and dynamics of non-linear chemical systems, towards turning ideas into patents. The audience was interested to hear about her new method to detect protein aggregates on nanoscale level, the road towards commercialization of this method for early diagnosis of Alzheimer patients and why researchers have all qualities to be good entrepreneurs: they are curious, used to working long hours and always full of new ideas, but need to be better at packaging and presenting them to others.  

Over 3 days, these seminars attracted totally >120 participants and offered a platform not only for learning, but also facilitating discussion among participants. This course was a good example of how the concepts of ‘internationalization’ and ‘commercialization’ can be integrated in pedagogical efforts at KI, improving the quality and diversity of research and education at our University. It is clear that such an example of educational activities will be further implemented and extended for future strengthening the prerequisites to our early stage researchers to have knowledge and expertise in this field and to expand their portfolio to be attractive in respect to their future career either in academia or industry.   

Erika Tanos